Facing 2030 – Lessons for the future

Mark Ritson loves to make a headline. As he confessed, “when you sell yourself, you need to come out with stuff that is counterintuitive, just to attract a commercial audience”.

In his closing remarks at the Research Society National Conference earlier this month, the professor turned virtual professor, who was presenting from his home office in Tasmania, urged MRX not to get carried away with the pornography of change. The irony of asking us to not get too obsessed with change should not be lost, when the entire conference went digital for the first time this year.

Headlines aside, Mark brought to the conference closing a grounded and sage point of view to Facing 2030. He suggested eight lessons he felt we need to keep first and foremost in our minds as researchers. You can read my thoughts on these lessons in the September issue of Research News, but for now, here are my top three:

#1 Spank the client with market orientation

Mark stated that clients are too frequently disconnected from their consumers’ world and as such, market research has an important role to play here, reminding clients that the outside-in focus, with their customer at the centre of their decision making, is the only way forward.

I agree with Mark, that organizations can benefit from an outside-in perspective, but it’s not an either/or situation. As my colleague Stijn Poffé and I shared in our own conference presentation, creative crowdsourcing fuels ideation with fresh ideas and inspiration, but internal stakeholders know and understand the bigger picture from a business perspective. This knowledge is key for fleshing out creative ideas, and refining those to the point where they can be converted into concrete concepts. The combination of inside-out and outside-in thinking creates a diverse pool of collective wisdom, thereby leading to more successful decision-making.

#2 The power of qual x quant remains

Here, Mark urged us to ensure we keep our toolbox in good shape, adopting more ‘both-ism’. “…everyone knows the limits of qual, but fewer clients know about the limits of quant.” A clarion call to us all to make sure we keep our well-developed tools ready and relevant.

Mark’s concern is that whilst data science has introduced more rigour, it also makes marketers uncomfortable with approximation, leading people to search for more machines for answers, fundamentally creating a misunderstanding of the importance of getting to the ‘why’ of human behaviour. I couldn’t agree more. We recently combined cutting-edge data science with quant, qual, consumer trends and cultural analysis for Twitter, uncovering truly new and unique insights, which would not have been possible through one methodology alone. There should be more of this.

#3 Now is the time for insights

Finally, he urged us to keep our clients asking, “What is my customer thinking right now? What will my customer think later when this crisis ends?”.

The answer will vary by sector, and in fact nobody knows the answer. As researchers we need to make sure we confidently help our clients solve their business challenges for the long run, recognising that too often we undersell the value we bring to the equation. My advice? Clients should invest in ongoing collaboration with consumers so that those critical questions can be asked today, tomorrow and in the future.

In Mark’s words, “the value is spectacular. Research, this is your time.”

Get in touch to find out more about our quant and qual capabilities or to request a free copy of our conference paper on creative crowdsourcing.

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